The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Classified documents are everywhere! They are coming for us all!

There is nothing to be afraid of! (Michael Macor/AP)
4 min

People, be calm! Be calm! I assert, again: There is nothing to be afraid of.

I know what it sounds like, in a lot of the news coverage. They can pop up anywhere, at any time, without warning. You walk through the door one afternoon and — bam! There they are, infesting your garage. It seems like every day there is a new headline, a new infestation.

I know that you are worried that one morning you will wake up and they will have infested your house, too. You will reach into the refrigerator to grab a bag of baby carrots, and when you pull your hand out, one will be there between your fingers. You will go to sleep at night and, just as you are tucking yourself in, you will find one rustling ominously at the bottom of your down comforter: a classified document.

I know it seems as though no one is safe from them. You might reach into your pocket for a novelty handkerchief to do a magic trick with, and, instead, out comes a long reel of classified microfilm. You will try to take a bite of a sandwich, and — crunch, you have bitten into a floppy disk of sources and methods from 1993.

Jim Geraghty: Hey, does so much of this stuff really need to be classified?

You used to feel safe in your own home, confident that you would not wake up one morning and discover that it was full of classified documents. But now, that faith has been shaken. Every time you open the newspaper, it seems that a cache of sensitive files has been discovered in a new spot. It sounds like they are getting closer — and getting bolder.

First it was just former president Donald Trump, and it seemed as though the rest of us could breathe easy. Obviously, the classified documents had not surprised him. He had brought the infestation on himself by taking a bunch of classified documents out of the White House and then not giving them back when the National Archives requested. But then, it kept happening.

Next, the Joe Biden office. Then, the Biden garage. His people acted promptly. They returned the documents. But having gotten the thirst for liberty, could the classified documents ever again be contained? This was when you started to get worried.

“Why were they in SCIFs,” you asked, “if not to protect us? Why were we so eager to keep them from prying eyes, if not to guard us from what was in them?”

The Post's View: Regrets over mishandling classified material? Biden should have a few.

You began doing math on the back of an envelope, and realized that at this rate, by 2024, 50 percent of the area of the United States will be covered in classified documents. Your grocery store would be entirely shrouded in microfiche. Your cat, yowling pitifully, would vanish in a thick whorl of white papers. Your front door would be covered by something so privileged that you would have to call the National Archives to open it.

But I again reassure you: You have no cause for concern. This does not just happen to people. After all, you were never president of the United States — and neither was I. As long as this issue remains confined to past or present holders of that highest office, I have no reason to think tha … oh, God. More have been discovered? In the home of Mike Pence, former vice president?

Yes, well, still, people like you and me, we, ah, never had any access to classified documents of any sort in the first place! No, these documents are not becoming increasingly brazen. They are not taunting us.

Please, stop asking these questions! If you do not have access to classified documents, they could not possibly — shhh!

What’s that, in the carpet? Rustling? I was wrong. My God, I was so wrong!